I was feeling good until I sneezed. Suddenly, I was on the floor, writhing in pain.
All because of an unexpected sneeze.
Now, I’ve sneezed hundreds of times in my life and it’s usually only a minor inconvenience. When I got up that Friday morning, the back pain I had dealt with for a couple weeks was almost completely gone—until that fateful sneeze.
Did I mention that I am a delivery driver, and I lift stuff and drive trucks for a living? Aching backs and delivery don’t go well together.
I dragged myself off the floor and painfully got dressed. Putting on my socks and shoes was the most difficult part. I waited to put them on until I was ready to leave to allow as much time as possible for my back pain to subside. But it was still a slow, painful, awkward process.
Finally, I made it out the door and got to work. Everything was going slower. It took longer than normal to check my load and inspect my truck. At last, I was rolling down Interstate 270 towards the DC suburbs, probably half an hour later than usual under normal circumstances.
As I drove, I suddenly felt God telling me that this was comparable to what happens psychologically and spiritually when we’ve been wounded. Earlier that day, I had felt Him telling me that today was going to be more difficult, so I needed to give myself grace when things went slower and not chafe at the bit.
Emotional and spiritual wounds are just as real as physical ones. The difference is that we can’t see them. We can only see the results. Unfortunately, everyone around us—as well as we ourselves—often expect us to keep on with life as though nothing happened.
It’s inevitable, however, that pain of any kind will slow us down and hold us back. Psychological and spiritual pain are no exception. When this happens, it’s important to give ourselves grace for our struggle.
No one would tell a bleeding, dying person to get up and act normal. No one would expect to get hip replacement surgery on Monday and be back to work on Tuesday. But somehow, we often fail to apply the same logic to psychological and spiritual wounds.
In addition, your wounds may have come from a situation where you were continually beaten down or repeatedly wounded, and the worse thing you could do under the circumstances would be to show weakness. Using the amazing coping skills that God has given us, you may have had to stuff down your feelings and act as though everything was okay. And you might have done a great job of it.
In fact, at the time, you might not have even seen yourself as wounded. You might have thought that everything was normal. It’s only afterwards, as you process your past, that you suddenly come face-to-face with the reality of what you experienced.
And that reality can be soul-crushing.
Actually, your soul was already crushed. You just haven’t realized it until now.
I have seen a trend to refer to people as “survivors”, not “victims”. I appreciate and understand the mindset behind this. And I also agree that victims need to heal and “survive” their trauma.
However, I have one big caution. “Victimhood” has been given a bad rap. People are told not to wallow in victimhood, but to rise above it.
But here’s the truth: you can’t survive something unless you were first a victim. The first step to becoming a survivor is to see yourself as a victim. It doesn’t mean that you should throw a pity party and use your “victim” status to take advantage of others. It does mean that you come to grips with the reality of your trauma, recognize the true extent of your injuries, and realize that you have probably blamed yourself for things that were never your fault.
And then be gracious with yourself as you heal. Different injuries take different amounts of time to heal. A cut finger heals much faster than a broken leg. Don’t compare your healing journey to others’ journeys, but instead trust that the Great Physician knows what He’s doing.
If your wounds mean that life is more difficult, that you aren’t able to do everything that “normal” people do, that’s okay. Healing takes energy, and you have to slow down while it happens.
And if it’s your friend or loved one who’s healing, come alongside them and support them. Cheer the victories, comfort them in the falls and defeats. Don’t assume that you can “fix” anything. And for heaven’s sake, don’t tell them to forgive and forget, or tell them that they haven’t forgiven if they still struggle with painful memories or keep talking about what happened.
Just be there. Just be who God has called you to be for the hurting:
His hands and feet.